Annapolitan Reports to Us From Copenhagen's Climate Summit ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Annapolitan Reports to Us From Copenhagen's Climate Summit

Hello, my name is Jane Shey and I have been a resident of Annapolis for over twenty years.  The last couple of years I have lived in Leuven, Belgium working on a Masters and now a PhD in environmental policy.  I am in Copenhagen as a delegate for ICLEI USA, local governments for sustainability representing the City of Minneapolis, which is one of the subjects of my research.

Copenhagen is really an amazing city.  I am very impressed with how the infrastructure is handing the thousands of people who are here for the climate talks.  From the airport I boarded a bus that took me directly to the Bella Center where the meetings are being held.  When we registered we were given a free transport pass to use during our time in Copenhagen.

Once I got through registration, I walked into the exhibition area and I was blown away by the number of organizations and countries represented here.  I actually make an effort to follow environmental policy and there were so many organizations and even countries/islands that I had never heard of.  I know one of the criticisms of this conference is all the people coming here from all over the world and the environmental impact of travel and a meeting of this size. A point well taken, but it is such an incredible opportunity for so many diverse people to come together, to meet and learn from each other.  In a world that is often filled with acrimony and intolerance, I think dialog and cultural education are worthwhile activities.

On Saturday, it was the march for the climate organized by several Danish environmental organizations.  It was great people watching to see all the different groups and people from so many countries represented. The march was really a melting pot, many young people and couples with small babies in carriages.  There were people pushing bikes, lots of signs and so many different languages.  The range given for the crowd was 40,000 to 100,000.  Whatever the number, it was a large group of people.


It took 3 hours to walk to the Bella Center which was just under 4 miles away.  I helped a friend from Minnesota carry a large banner so I was definitely tired at the end.  Along the way I spoke with a Turkish man who was singing "We Shall Overcome", a German couple with a one year old baby, drove from Frankfurt, for the march.  There were Danish and Swedish students and two college students from Oregon, who were traveling in Europe and decided to join the march.  I would walk with people for a few minutes and talk with them and then they would drift off and there would be someone else to talk to.

One of the Swedish students said she lived in the US for a year.  She posed a question that I could not answer, "Why don't American's even do the easy things to save energy?"  She talked about our large gas guzzling cars and our energy inefficient homes.  She said she had never lived in a home so cold as the one in Seattle.  I found it hard to explain, even as an American.  I said energy is cheap and there is not much emphasis on conserving and at the end of the day, I don't think Americans have an interest in making any changes to their lifestyle.  Her response was even simple changes would not hurt our lifestyle and would make a difference.

The crowd was peaceful and good-natured.  And after walking 4 miles on a cold day, people were tired.  Even going home and waiting for a train, I was surprised at the patience and good humor of the crowd.

Apparently, at the end of the parade there were some protestors who threw rocks and caused trouble with the police.  I heard it is this protest that the media picked up on and provided the most coverage.  I guess they have to sell newspapers and get people to watch TV but it was such a small part of the march.  I didn't find out about the arrests until the next day.  There was a small group dressed in black that I noticed at the march.  Apparently, they told the organizers ahead of time that they were going to do something violent.  The organizers asked them to wait until the end of the parade and obviously the police knew about it because they moved in before much happened.  There were 4 arrests and 900 people were detailed and then released.  A local man on the metro told me that it was probably a local group that shows up at rallies and is disruptive.

Each person or organization at the march might have had a different spin on the climate change that is occurring or why they were at the march.  Some were indigenous people who were losing their lifestyle and culture due to deforestation or reduced fishing or there were pro-solar and wind and anti-nuclear groups.  One of the most vocal and persistence in presence everywhere was a religious organization from Taiwan that supported a vegan lifestyle.  Like I said it seemed that everyone was at the march and despite different issues were voicing a common concern that our environment is changing and national governments are not acting to address these changes.

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